Navy Veterans with Mesothelioma

Between the 1930s through the misd-1970s, veterans who served in every branch are at very high risk of developing respiratory conditions as well as asbestos related cancers. This is due to their military occupations exposing them to high levels of harmful toxic substance during the period of extensive use of asbestos.

Navy Veterans with Mesothelioma
Asbestos Exposure

High-risk Military Jobs

Between the 1930s through the misd-1970s, veterans who served in every branch are at very high risk of developing respiratory conditions as well as asbestos related cancers. This is due to their military occupations exposing them to high levels of harmful toxic substance during the period of extensive use of asbestos.

During some point of their military career, whether being a mechanic, radioman, infantryman, or pipefitter, these men became exposed to asbestos. Some parts of the ships and other vessels contained asbestos, which also caused harm to these men.

Asbestos Exposure

High-risk Military Jobs

Some of the high-risk military jobs included:

Army Jobs

  • Aircraft mechanic
  • Infantryman
  • Artilleryman
  • Vehicle mechanic

Air Force Jobs

  • Aircraft mechanic
  • Environmental support specialist

Marine Corps Jobs

  • Mechanics
  • Marines deployed on Navy ships

Navy Jobs

  • Boatswain’s mate
  • Damage controlman
  • Electrician’s mate
  • Fire control technician
  • Gunner’s mate
  • Machinery repairman
  • Machinist’s mate
  • Metalsmith
  • Pipefitter
  • Radioman
  • Seabee
  • Water tender
  • Welder
  •  Hull maintenance technician
Navy Veterans
Asbestos Occupations

History of Asbestos Occupations

The U.S Navy began using materials in 1930 to help repair, maintain, and build ships that contained asbestos. Engine rooms, walls, flooring, piping, and doors were all contaminated. Many areas on Navy ships required fireproofing, which required asbestos insulation. Normal work duties performed by sailors released asbestos fibers in the air, which caused a risk of mesothelioma and other lung cancers.

Even after the Navy officially eliminated asbestos use on ships in 1975, other harmful exposures continued to spread.

Some Navy ratings that put sailors in close contact with asbestos:

  • Hull technicians
  • Boiler tenders
  • Shipfitters
  • Engine mechanics
  • Welders

Veterans from all of the branches of the U.S Military suffered from asbestos exposure, however, Navy veterans were at risk for the highest exposure during their service. In the Air Force and Army, insulation, electric wiring, as well as brake and clutch pads all contained asbestos.

Asbestos Exposure

Navy Jobs linked to Asbestos Exposure

Due to World War II, the U.S Navy had to construct and deploy many new ships. In both the European and Pacific area, vessels like aircraft carriers and battleships were utilized for the war.

Many veterans were not only wounded from the war but were wounded due to the asbestos that were found within their ship. The list is very long regarding the officers and sailors that were at risk for mesothelioma or other lung cancers.

Some high-risk Navy Jobs include:

Boatswain Mate

Boatswain Mate spend most of their time preforming maintenance duties above and below deck as well as controlling the activities on the ship. Some specific jobs they performed were grinding floor tiles containing asbestos and sanding paint that also contained asbestos.

Former boatswain mates Marc Chamot and Glenn Hatch, speak about the risks and dangers of their duties. Chamot expressed, “This ship was laden with dangerous levels of asbestos, mercury metals and leaded pains.” He was aboard the USS Vogelgesang, a Navy destroyer. Hatch was involved with asbestos during the Korean War. He slept in rooms with asbestos surrounding him, which lead to his current asbestos-related illness.

Boiler Technician

A boiler technician’s job is to repair or operate on steam boilers that drive Navy ships across the sea. A training manual enforced in 1951 required technicians to use asbestos sheets for gasket maintenance in air valve seats and cylinder head joints. Asbestos contaminated gloves were also used as during these repairs and operations.

Former boiler technician, John Anthony Starets worked from 1959 to 1963 in the fire room of USS Uhlmann. He describes how much of the ship was filled with asbestos. His fellow shipmen used to mix loose asbestos with water to create a paste for coating. Starets said, “The air was full of dust, and the asbestos was just like flour.”

Another boiler technician, William Mansir’s job was to disconnect and replace gaskets in packing materials that contained asbestos. In 2011 he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma and filed a lawsuit against John Crane, Inc. as well as 11 other asbestos manufacturers. Mansir won the lawsuit and was granted approximately $2.4 million.

Damage Controlman

The duty of a damage controlman is to preform emergency repairs on the ship after enemy attack as well as act as a fireman. They also must maintain activities such as pipe fittings, watertight closures, and maintain the equipment used for firefighting and damage controls.

The firefighting suits, gloves, and slippers that the men wore were made from sheet asbestos packing.

Damage controlman, Michael Kastanis, developed an asbestos- related gastrointestinal cancer from the exposure during his time working, which ultimately lead to his death. While working with warships that were located at Boston Naval Shipyard and Pearl Harbor, he also obtained some asbestos exposure.

Electrician’s Mate

Electrician’s MateAn electrician’s responsibility is to operate on and repair the ship’s electrical systems which contain the power equipment, wiring, motors, generators, and lights.

There was a great deal of asbestos exposure since these men worked on almost every part of the ship. Asbestos materials were utilized when insulating generators, motors, and light transformers. The ship needed maintenance on all of their electrical systems throughout the ship and needed electricians to remove and dispose of insulations products that contained asbestos.

An electrician and machinist mate, Dennis Woodard, served in the Navy from 1961 to 1965. In 2007 he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and filed a lawsuit. He was granted $14.4 million and his wife $2.5 million by a California court due to several manufactures failing to warn him about the products that contained asbestos

Fire Control Technician

The duty of a fire control technician is to work with weapon systems in Navy submarines. These technicians were at a very high risk of exposure, especially in older submarines.

Asbestos contaminated hoodies and gloves were worn by these technicians while they loaded and fired gun turrets. It was also used in gaskets to seal out fired and other fumes.

Gunner’s Mate

The prime responsibility of a gunner’s mate is to maintain a ship armament, including things such as guided missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, and machine guns. Another duty is to work on depth charge mechanisms, smoke screen generators, and ammunition hoists.

These men worked to reduce the risk of burns while loading and firing ammunition with gloves that contained asbestos. As they aged, these gloves would give off toxic fibers. Insultation embedded in the ship would release asbestos dust when the ship fired hefty artillery.

Gunner mate, Joseph Henson Norris developed mesothelioma in 2005 from when he worked on the USS Bremerton from 1955-1957. A lawsuit was filed against a manufacturer, Crane Co. This company develops metal valves that contained packing and gaskets that has asbestos. The company’s carelessness and values are factors that help the jury conclude that they were the cause of Norris’s mesothelioma. He was granted $3.9 million from this lawsuit.

Hull Maintenance Technician

Hull maintenance technicians assemble and install many metal structures on Navy ships as well as firefighting. There was asbestos found in ventilation, pipe gaskets, and insulation, which the technicians breathed in as they worked.

A Navy veteran wrote an anonymous article about his experience with asbestos from when he was a hull maintenance from 1978 to 1981. The veteran describes that him as well as his shipmates had no knowledge of the risks from the asbestos and failed to wear any protective clothing when handling the material.  He said, “Through my whole 18 months on board I got a large dose of asbestos from working on boilers to repairing of piping systems and [wearing] old firefighting apparel.”

Machinery Repairman

A machinery repairman repairs a large range of different machinery on the ships. Removing and replacing gaskets filled with asbestos was one of their main jobs. Also, while operating on machinery and furnaces, these repairmen were exposed to insulation and sheets containing asbestos.

Virgin Junge, a former technician and repairman, has dealt with gaskets, flanges, and packing that were filled with asbestos when working with the Navy and Philadelphia Shipyard. Asbestos fibers were released into the air when the repairmen sanded down the products. Junge was diagnosed with asbestosis in 1993. A lawsuit was filed by him against Garlock and numerous companies that produced materials containing asbestos.

Machinist’s Mate

The main duties of machinists are to repair engine machinery and components, which included fuel pumps, elevators, air-conditioning systems, and turbines. They would examine and replace materials that contained asbestos for hours which caused many health risks.

In the 1966 movie, The Sand Pebbles, Steve McQueen played the role of a machinist’s mate. McQueen was later diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, which ultimately lead to his death in 1980, making him one of the most famous actor to die from this illness.

After developing an asbestos related disease, past mechanics David Kelemen and David Taylor filed lawsuits for compensation. Taylor was awarded $3 million after suing John Crane, Inc. Numerous companies paid Kelemen $35.5 million to cover lost wages and medical expenditures.


Metalsmiths weld together sheet metal for repairing damages throughout the ships. These men were required to wear gloves due to the high temperatures, however, these gloves contained asbestos.

It was recommended by the Navy that to metalsmiths utilize a shield of a board containing asbestos to protect their hands as they welded.

A metalsmith that worked aboard the World War II- era cruiser USS Bremerton, named Charles Sparkes developed mesothelioma from his duties on the ship. He was required to work with gaskets and insulation around pipes that had asbestos enclosed within. In 1995, a claimed was filed by Sparkes and his wife against the manufacturer Owens-illinios Inc. The company was blamed for Sparkes’s illness; therefore he won the lawsuit.


The main duty of a pipefitter is to work with the pipe systems found throughout the ship. While repairing the pipes they are exposed to asbestos in the lagging from the pipe that were contaminated. Gaskets, seals, and insulation filled with asbestos are a few other things that pipefitters worked with that contributed to future health issues.

A welder and pipefitter, William Smith, who served in the USS Valley Forge ship from 1955 until 1974 describes how part of his job required mixing water with asbestos and other mixtures. He then had to coat the pipes on the ship with paste that had asbestos and then wrap them with clothes that also had asbestos embedded within. In 1999 he was then diagnosed with lung cancer.

Ulysses Collins, another pipefitter and welder, was diagnosed with mesothelioma from working on multiple shipyards. Some of these shipyards included Mare Island and Hunters Point Naval Shipyards. In 2005 he passed away from this disease, but his family members filed a lawsuit on his behalf. The lawsuit targeted 17 companies that produced products that he worked with that contained asbestos and were awarded $10 million.


Radiomen work with upholding the communication equipment on the ship. Their main duties were too transmit and decode radio messages that came through, as well as make repairs to radio equipment.

Asbestos was used as a filler for plastic molding compounds that were used for the base radio tubes on the ship. In 1972, the Navy training manual advocated for radiomen to install a heat shield in order to protect parts of the equipment; however, the heat shield contained asbestos.

A famous warning in 1941 was conducted by Ed Chlapowski saying, “This is no drill. Pearl Harbor is being attacked by the forces of the Imperial government of Japan. This is no drill.” After retiring from the Navy, Chlapowski worked at the Todd Shipyard, then passed away in 2011 from mesothelioma.


This a group of members from the Navy Construction Battalion that conducted many construction assignments that required welding, plumbing, craftsman, and electrical skills. Some of these duties included paving roads, building bases, and clearing land.

These construction assignments exposed seabees to many products with asbestos. These men used gaskets for steam lines and cut lagging sheets for insulation. Both the gaskets and lagging sheets were contaminated with asbestos. Every deployment, the insulation filled with asbestos was replaced or repaired with more of the contained insulation. These men also dealt with pipes insulation, paint, and boilers that has asbestos embedded within them.


WeldersMetalwork, including multiple welding techniques were completed by Navy welders on sea as well as on land.

To prevent metals from expanding, the 1950 Navy welding manual advised welders to use wet asbestos on the metal.  During cast- iron welding, they also were required to utilize paper laced with asbestos to slow the cooling.

A welder, Gerald Black worked from 1942 to 1945 at Todd Shipyards made a testimony in a worker’s compensation claim in 1977. He described that other workers threw asbestos-containing material “like snowballs” and he “had to wallow in it to do [his] welding.” He exclaimed that his worksite was so dusty that he lost his work glove and couldn’t see well enough to find it.

Black was diagnosed with an asbestos- related lung disease and passed away in 1981. However, he won multiple lawsuits from various places including Todd Shipyards and was awarded a benefit of an unknown amount.

Additional Navy Jobs at Risk
Asbestos Exposure

Additional Navy Jobs at Risk

There is a very slim chance that these jobs were not exposed to some form of asbestos upon the Navy ships and submarines. Even other veterans could have had asbestos lurking in their sleeping quarters as well as other areas of the ship.  There was an estimated 300 products aboard the ship contained asbestos.

Other Navy jobs that may have encountered asbestos exposure include:

Aviation Machinist’s Mate

Repairing and controlling the Navy aircrafts on sea and on shore were the responsibilities of these men. While working on machines with high temperature, the veterans used clamps with pads that contained asbestos.


Molders worked on a large variety of equipment throughout the ship. They created metal moldings and castings by using molten metal. The equipment they used as protection contained asbestos.


These men welded and invented structures that were made up on sheet metal and steel. The material that was used for fireproofing and the welding sites has asbestos embedded within.


The storekeepers main responsibilities were to supply the tools and equipment needed throughout the ship. They did not specifically work with asbestos- filled products, however, they were exposed to it within their rooms.

Asbestos Exposure

Additional Navy Jobs at Risk

Water Tender

The fires and boilers aboard the ship were managed by the water tenders. When the boilers needed fixing, the men were exposed to asbestos that were located in the gaskets within the boilers.

Army Jobs Linked to Asbestos Exposure

Human transport, direct combat, and peacekeeping are a few things that the U.S Army is responsible for. It is made up of many corps, divisions, brigades, battalions, and smaller armies and is also the biggest branch of armed forces.

In the 1930s the Army started using products and materials that contained asbestos. The products that the Army used to create aircrafts, weapons, vehicles, and gear all used asbestos- contaminated ingredients.

U.S Army jobs that were related to asbestos exposure include:


The duties of these men are to organize and store ammunition and to maintain weapons.  Artillerymen had to wear asbestos gloves to minimize burns when they were working with hot artillery shells.


Infantrymen help in the organization of vehicles and weaponry as well as aid as firemen when defending on land. The minerals that they used on machines and vehicles had asbestos found in them.

Vehicle Mechanic

The break pads, gaskets, bearings, and body fillers contained asbestos, which the mechanics would come across when preforming maintenance on these vehicles. Also, when repairing fuel systems, hydraulic systems, and rotors, the mechanics would be exposed to asbestos.

Air Force Jobs Linked to Asbestos Exposure

The Air Force have responsibilities that include flying aircrafts as well as repairing and maintaining them. The wiring, turbines, insulation, and engines found in these aircrafts all have parts with asbestos.

From 1930 to 1970, the veterans that served in the Air Force are at the highest risk of asbestos exposure, however, asbestos still might be in aircrafts today. Air force veterans could have been exposed to asbestos from the minerals in the vehicles and their bases when they are not in the air. When working on auto parts on land, there were minerals in the vehicles that contained asbestos.

Air Force jobs that were related to asbestos exposure include:

Additional Navy Jobs at Risk
Asbestos Exposure

Additional Navy Jobs at Risk

Aircraft Mechanic

Preforming repairs and keeping up with the military planes is the main job of the aircraft and maintenance mechanics. The work they did on these aircrafts exposed them to asbestos from the boxes, brakes, engine parts and wiring they worked on.

Environmental Support Specialist

These specialists make sure that the Air Force follows the rules and regulations of the environment. They were exposed to asbestos when examining the cooling, piping, and boiler systems.

Marine Corps Jobs Linked to Asbestos Exposure

Marine Corps were exposed to asbestos on ships, vehicles, and aircrafts during World War II.

The Navy and Marine work hand in hand, which causes some marines to be exposed to asbestos.

Veterans from the Vietnam era were exposed to a great amount of asbestos, even though it was said to of declined since the 1970s. They may have been exposed when they were aboard transport ships in deployment during the Vietnam war.

Marine Corps that may have potentially put veterans at risk for asbestos include:

Marines Deployed on any Navy Ship

There was poor ventilation on the ships, which caused asbestos fibers to circulate throughout the rooms, affecting everyone on the ships. The insulation around the pipes, engines, and boilers released the asbestos which circulated around the dining and sleeping quarters of the ship.


When preforming daily checkups around the ship that contained body fillers, mechanics were often exposed to asbestos. These men were also exposed to the toxin when they repaired seals and gaskets in the engines. Putting in wheel bearings, clutches, and brake pads were the jobs that had the highest risk of exposure for these mechanics.

Stages of Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural Mesothelioma Stages

A doctor will also determine the stage of mesothelioma as part of the diagnostic process, which determines the origin in the lining of the lungs and describes how far it has spread from that point. This information is significant to doctors when determining potential treatment availabilities. Standard treatment options are more commonly available to patients with stage 1 or stage 2 compared to patients with the later 3 and 4 stages.

The following are the pleural mesothelioma stages:


Within Stage 1, the mesothelioma tumor is generally in one location, and the cancerous cells have not dispersed to lymph nodes or other body organs and tissues. In general, surgical treatment may be an option for eliminating the cancerous growth.



Within Stage 2, the mesothelioma tumor is larger and has probably intruded on surrounding organs, such as the lung or even diaphragm. Lymph nodes could additionally be included. In this case, surgical reapportion might still be feasible, however much more difficult depending on the scope of the growth.


Within Stage 3, mesothelioma cancer has infested a region or perhaps location. Cancer has progressively spread throughout one side of the chest, within the chest wall, esophagus, and additional lymph nodes. Surgical treatment is typically not an option as curative therapy, however various other treatment options may be attempted. 


Within Stage 4, the mesothelioma has dispersed to numerous locations, such as various other organs and tissues throughout the body. Surgical treatment is no longer an alternative, and most treatments at this stage concentrate on minimizing discomfort and pain.